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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Yes, men and women think differently

Like many company owners and chief executive officers, I belong to an executive roundtable group. This group of fellow CEOs from non-competing companies and industries serves as my unofficial “board of advisors.” It’s quite useful to have access to other CEOs to vet out issues and challenges, especially for a privately owned company.

My group is called Vistage, and it has more than 20,000 members all over the world. The majority of the members are based in the United States, and my particular group is based in Southern California. On the second Tuesday of each month, I meet with 14 fellow CEO members.

Interestingly – I am the only female member of my group. And that’s the way it has been since I joined 5 years ago. My group chair is constantly looking for other Los Angeles-based women CEOs to join our group, but no luck… yet!

Once a year, our group convenes for a Spouse Retreat Weekend, where our significant others join us. It’s a mostly social gathering, but we always have a speaker who is appropriate for both members and their spouses.

This weekend our speaker was Carolyn Strauss, a “collaborationships” expert who specializes in creating optimal workplaces. Carolyn runs a successful coaching and business consulting practice, and she also has a second business which makes her a regular on the Home Shopping Network (HSN): The Carolyn Strauss Collection – comfortable travel-friendly clothing for busy women.

Carolyn was not at our retreat to talk about clothing or business, however. She was there to talk about how to optimize your life via relationships. Because we were there with our spouses, her talk highlighted how men and women listen differently during conversations:

Men listen with their perspective of being hunters and providers. They are focused and only concentrate on one result at a time. When they are listening to you, they are constantly thinking, “Get to the point. What’s the problem and how do I fix it?” And they don’t play, unless they can win.

Women, on the other hand, listen with their perspective of being gatherers and nurturers. They have an awareness of everything and are adept at multi-tasking. When they are listening to you, they are asking themselves, what does this have to do with me? And they will play as long as they are safe.

One of my male colleagues, Cuyler, commented to me that he found Carolyn’s comments enriching. He said that it only makes sense that more women are being asked to lead divisions and companies, as women seem more naturally wired to multi-task and nurture their team members. I think his perspective is definitely influenced by his wife and her success as a head of global marketing for a large Hollywood studio.

There was also a lesson there for me. Because all the teams at my company have both women and men, I need to consciously appeal to both of their natural tendencies and leadership capabilities. I have to balance the “get to the point” with “giving a full perspective.” For some, I can pile on the work without priorities, and for others, I need to help them understand what needs to be done first and what can wait.

I believe we all have this challenge, whether it’s at work or at home. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who has noticed that men and women think differently!

Karen

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